March 2, 2001

Call State San Marcos Partners With Middle School to Teach Parents About Kids and Schools

Children at Grant Middle School in Escondido will watch their parents graduate in early March. The parents are getting a helping hand in how to encourage their children to succeed in school. Each Wednesday, more than 100 parents gather at Grant Middle School in the Escondido Union School District for the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), in partnership with California State University San Marcos' GEAR UP program. Parents who successfully complete the current nine-week program will "graduate" on March 7.

For more than 13 years, the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) has helped parents get involved in their child's education. It has been offered at Grant Middle School since 1997. The program offers low-income, ethnically diverse parents of elementary and middle school children the chance to learn how to help their children stay in school, improve classroom performance, improve parent-child relationships, and plan for higher education. The curriculum covers collaboration at home and at school, home issues, motivation, and self-esteem, communications, discipline, drugs and gangs, schools and community, an overview of the school system, and preparing for college and careers.

"Our instructors come from all walks of life," says Carmen Russian, PIQE's executive director. "They share the same concerns with realities of the education of our children. Some of our teachers are counselors, accountants, and doctors. They all share a desire to help." According to Russian, PIQE helps parents to become more aware of the role they have in their child's education. "In the Latino culture, we feel that the teachers are the professionals and the ones who have the right answers and should make the decisions," says Russian. "But we need to let parents know that they have the right to be involved in their child's education."

GEAR UP, short for "Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs," is a federally funded program that creates a pathway to college for low-income students. Jasmin De Leon, parent and community advisor with Cal State San Marcos' GEAR UP program, works at the middle school site to increase parent involvement. She sits in on parent conferences, organizes parent events, serves as a translator, and provides other services as requested by parents. "We work with the school to help parents learn more about the educational system and how parents can navigate through it," says De Leon. The partnership with PIQE, according to de Leon, furthers GEAR UP's mission to help the students want to be at school, to want a more rigorous academic program, and to make students eager to get into college. "Our goal is to raise grades, cut the absentee rate, and see the basic skill levels of the students rise," explains De Leon. "When we motivate the parents through PIQE, that motivates the students." Last year at Grant, PIQE graduated 158 from the program. There are currently more than 100 parents enrolled in four Spanish-language classes and one English-language class for parents at Grant Middle School.

In 1987, PIQE began by offering classes in one school. Today, more than 75,000 parents from 300 elementary and middle schools in San Diego County, Los Angeles County, San Jose, El Monte and Sacramento have completed the course. A study by Pepperdine University shows that children of PIQE graduates stay in touch with their children's teachers, are actively involved in homework each night, and know their responsibilities for their child's education.

The Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) offers the classes in ten languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hmong, Cambodian, and Laotian.

The parent graduation is at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7 in the Grand Middle School Auditorium (939 E. Mission Ave., Escondido).

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